SEARS ROEBUCK: EXPANDING MEDICARE HMO OPTION TO RETIREES
Sears Roebuck & Co. will expand its Medicare risk HMOThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
program next year because local pilot programs have been so
successful, BUSINESS INSURANCE reports. "We've gone forward
aggressively with this and come a long way in a short period of
time," said Marybride Misar, a Sears benefits planning analyst.
Sears will offer Medicare HMO enrollment to an additional 40,000
of its 113,000 covered retirees "as a means to trim the $120
million" it spends annually on retiree health benefits.
Currently, 5,800 retirees are in Medicare HMOs under pilot
programs launched last year in Arizona, California and Florida
and in "numerous other retiree locations nationwide." Starting
January 1, Sears will offer managed care to retirees in at least
35 locations, according to Misar. Additionally, Sears will offer
33,000 employees near retirement the option to join the HMOs,
stay in them after retirement and "lock in their benefits in
Medicare risk HMOs."
WAY TO GO: Misar said that Sears expects one in five
retirees who are eligible for managed care to enroll in one of
the plans. If Sears "can offer Medicare risk HMOs to 40% of its
retirees, and if 20% of those eligible sign up, the company can
save $17 million a year," according to Misar. She noted that
Sears is "encouraged at the level of participation in the HMOs so
far." BUSINESS INSURANCE reports that about 18% of Sears'
managed care eligible retirees select the option, and of those
who have enrolled in managed care only two percent have returned
to the traditional Sears insurance plan.
WHAT THIS MEANS: Joseph Martingale, a consultant with the
Towers Perrin consulting firm, said that "aggressive initiatives
like Sears' program may mean a virtual transference of retiree
health care to managed care." He added that managed care may be
the "most sensible course for companies" trying to cut retiree
health costs (Kazel, 9/23 issue).